Tuesday, March 07, 2017

[Books] Book Look: How Much For Just the Planet?, by John M. Ford

Well, that was interesting. This is a Star Trek book, which I know from adolescence to be pretty much pure pulp and would normally never hit my radar, but I had it from informed sources that it was something special. And special it certainly is.

Occasionally, in the course of a long running TV series, the writers are given the opportunity to have some fun with an episode. Often this takes the form of a musical or a comedic farce in the middle of a season full of drama. Examples would be the Buffy musical, or any X-files episode written by Darin Morgan, or in a Star Trek vein: The Trouble With Tribbles (which was also the source of a similar episode on Deep Space Nine). How Much For Just the Planet is the equivalent of such an episode in the form of a book.

To wit: The inhabitants of dilithium-rich planet tend to break into Gilbert and Sullivan musical numbers. Kirk and a Klingon counterpart get involved in a slapstick set piece. Scotty gets in a duel of honor with a Klingon officer in a game of golf, played in the middle of a battle. Uhura and a Klingon fan of Earth noir movies practically re-enact The Maltese Falcon. And naturally, it all ends in a pie fight. It's utterly silly, but rollicking good fun.

The book itself could use some structural refinements. It's very easy to lose track of threads and who's who and in what manic situation, and as the madness runs on it also runs a bit thin (this is often the problem with three act farces). Still, considering the sad state of the Star Trek efforts at the moment, what with the Abrams movies getting increasingly ham-fisted and the upcoming series engulfed in production chaos, it might be an energizing idea to do a special event based on this book. Joss Whedon could make it a masterpiece (if he can stop freaking out about Trump). Outside the box would be Seth MacFarlane. Yet further outside would be Trey Parker and Matt Stone. All of them understand musical comedy. It might add a little life to an increasingly stultified franchise.

So should you read How Much For Just The Planet? Probably not. It's a good book, almost poetic in places, but it is clearly meant as a novelization of a musical farce yet to be made. Still, high points for doing a Star Trek book that isn't space opera pulp, and for having some fun with it.